You can’t use more coupons if there are fewer coupons available to use. And coupons were harder to find this past year, so it’s no surprise that we used fewer of them – fewer, in fact, than our great-grandparents’ generation did.

But brands be warned – many would-be coupon-clippers have switched to store brands to save money, and brands that have cut back on coupons may never get those customers back.

Those are the stark statistics, and the stark warning, that Inmar Intelligence is offering in its latest annual look at the state of coupons.

First, to the troubling numbers. By Inmar’s count, 142 billion coupons were made available in 2022. That’s a similar number to the one reported by Vivvix last month, representing a 20% year-over-year decline – the steepest annual decline in coupon distribution ever recorded.

Unlike Vivvix, though, Inmar also keeps track of coupon redemption figures. And it found that 770 million coupons were redeemed in all of last year, down 19% from the previous year. This marks the first time since the early 1960’s that fewer than a billion coupons were redeemed in a year. Back then, it was big news when coupon use surpassed the one-billion mark. Now, there’s little fanfare accompanying the fact that we’ve fallen below that notable figure, some six decades later.

Coupon distribution has been steadily declining for a decade now, while redemption has been declining for even longer. And the story is always the same – more coupons are going digital, which means they can be more specific and targeted, so it stands to reason that fewer of them are available overall. And fewer available coupons means fewer coupons will be used. Add to that the Covid-related supply chain challenges of recent years, and brands simply didn’t want to offer price promotions on products they couldn’t keep in stock anyway.


But whatever the reasons, how long will shoppers stand for it? Are we really going to be satisfied couponing like it’s 1963, especially as grocery inflation continues wreaking havoc with our household budgets?

Inmar is warning brands that whatever money they’re saving now by cutting back on coupons, they could end up paying the price later. Shoppers are looking for savings, and if their favorite brands won’t offer them, those brands may not be their favorites for much longer.

In a survey of shoppers, Inmar found that more than half have been looking for coupons for products they regularly buy. And if they can’t find them, 75% are opting for lower-priced brands, 76% are buying store brands, and 87% are willing to shop at stores that don’t carry many brand names at all, like ALDI or Trader Joe’s. These are customers that brands may never be able to win back.

But they just might – if they don’t give up on coupons altogether. 57% of shoppers told Inmar that they would still purchase their preferred brands over lower-priced alternatives if there was a coupon available. So shoppers haven’t completely sworn off name brands. But with prices on the rise, their patience may not last forever.

Despite the dismal redemption figures last year, shoppers are still very interested in coupons. Inmar tracked mentions of “coupons” on social media, and found that conversations about coupons have doubled over the past year. While Sunday newspaper coupons still account for 89% of all coupons distributed, redemption of those coupons plummeted 39% last year, as more shoppers turned to digital offers – not necessarily because they prefer digital, but because many are displeased with the types of offers that appear in the Sunday newspaper inserts. A vast majority of paper coupons are for nonfood products, while shoppers have long preferred coupons for edible items that they can feed their families.

So we seem to be caught in something of an endless cycle, in which brands are offering fewer coupons because fewer shoppers are using them, while shoppers are redeeming fewer coupons because there are fewer that actually appeal to them. Brands’ promotional strategies don’t necessarily align with what shoppers want anymore. And that’s especially true with inflation the way it is, as shoppers today have little tolerance for paying full price.

The big name brands are already losing business to store brands. But Inmar suggests it’s not too late – many shoppers are willing to come back to their once-favorite brands, if those brands start offering more coupons again. If they don’t, this seemingly-endless cycle of all-time coupon distribution and redemption lows, year after year, may not come to an end any time soon.

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